Saying Goodbye: A Couple Pelikan M620 Cities Series

Pelikan M620 Shanghai and Piazza Novana for sale

Last week I sold off two of my Pelikan M620 Cities Series fountain pens. The Pelikan Piazza Navona and Pelikan Shanghai both joined my accumulation in 2005. I was enamored with the designs. It was a time when I wanted to experiment with different nibs, so both cam with broad nibs.

It didn’t take too long for me to realize that broad nibs weren’t for me, no matter how much I liked the look of the pen. At least not for anything more than a brief change of pace.

I really liked the pens so when the 2013 Washington DC Pen Show came around, I brought them with me to have them ground. As I mentioned in my Piazza Navona review a fine nib felt like a waste of tipping material, so I went with a stub. I figured a stub would bring some excitement. I was wrong. While the stubs were nice, and I generally like them, they were still too wide for me to use regularly. The pens were only inked three times each since the pen show. Even when inked, they saw little use. Only the Shanghai has been inked in the last five years, and that was in 2017.

I suppose a grind to a fine or extra fine nib would get the pens more use. While the pens are beautiful, they got a lot more competition for my attention these days. Plus, the history of two bad choices (for me) leaves some bad associations with the pens. The pens are great writers and beautiful, so it was time for them to go to a better home.

I did keep one M620, the Piccadilly Circus. Aesthetically it was my least favorite of the three, but it has a medium nib. Yes, the nibs are easily interchangeable, but I do have an aversion to changing a pens original equipment. Even when that equipment is designed to be swapped.

There’s not much else for me to say. The pens are beautiful and great writers, just not for me. I’m trying to get down to a core group of pens I can use regularly. The lack of use doesn’t give me much to say about them.

Long Term Review: Fisher of Pens Hermes

Fisher of Pens Hermes with R&K Blau-Schwarz LE bottle

My Fisher of Pens Hermes was a 2016 Washington D.C. Pen Show purchase. I wrote about my first impressions here. Fisher of Pens is Carl Fisher’s brand for the custom pens that he makes. In this case, while it’s a custom pen, I bought it off the shelf (actually a table).

It’s the pen color that caught my eye. It was a dark pen that stood out among all the bright green pens on the table. I love the color. The base color is a deep, dark black. An olive green web covers the pen, giving it a vintage look. The celluloid is called vintage web green, which is an appropriate name. An yes, I did say the material is celluloid, making this my only modern celluloid fountain pen.

While the bulk of the pen is celluloid, the finials on each end, along with the section, are black ebonite. I’ve used eight different inks in the pen, one of which made two visits. Early on I had some hard starts and flow issues. Carl did contact me and offered to have the pens sent back for an adjustment. I declined the offer.

Other than flushing out any manufacturing residue, I never believed fountain pens needed to be broken in. If this had been my first fountain pen, I’d probably believe that they did. It’s gotten better and better with continued use.

The problems were never severe, just annoying. Increasing the ink flow is within my capabilities, but I was reluctant to make changes since the pen wrote great most of the time. I like my fountains a bit on the dry side, so I let things go and resisted the urge to tinker and adjust. Now, the Hermes is an enjoyable writer. If it has been unused for a week or more, it may need a little help getting started. That trait is shared by several other of my thin nibs.

This pen highlighted one of my fountain pen quirks. I have this aversion to changing a fountain pen once I get it unless I got it with the intent to make a change.  I can sometimes bring myself to make changes, such as getting a new nib grind or fixing an obvious problem such as consistent skipping due to a misaligned nib. I also like to use a pen for a while before I make any changes, such as a nib grind. That was undoubtedly a factor in my hesitation in making any changes to this pen. The annoyances were more than offset by the writing enjoyment the pen usually provided. I was concerned fixing the annoyances would ruin some of the pleasure of using the pen. My patience was rewarded.

The Hermes is a straight rod, without any taper. The cap screws flush to the body. Thanks to the web pattern, it’s hard to see the seam between the cap and the body. The fit is perfect. It’s a long pen, which means it looks thinner than it actually is. I find thin pens uncomfortable, while this one has plenty of girth for comfort. It’s also a relatively light pen, considering its size. The only metal on the pen is the nib and clip. Since the cap doesn’t post, the clip doesn’t add any weight when writing. I can use the pen for very long writing sessions without my hand getting fatigued.

Since it’s such a long pen, it’s not a pocket carry. The cap requires two full rotations to remove or replace, so the Hermes isn’t suitable for quick notes. I typically.keep the Fisher of Pens Hermes in a two or three pen case. Currently, that’s the Nock Co. Tallulah. My Visconti 3-pen case has been used in the past. The Hermes fits comfortably in the Tallulah, with just enough clearance for the zipper (there’s a protection strip of material between the pen and zipper). It needs to use the middle slot on the Visconti, otherwise the pen will press against the zipper. While I do use it at my desk, it’s mostly used when I’m working somewhere else. This is mainly because it’s in a pen case that stays in my briefcase, so it’s ready when I head out. Once a pen enters the case it’s there until I’m motivated to swap it. It’s a pen I only use when sitting at a desk or table, it’s too unwieldy to use while standing or on the move. So while it may be used infrequently, when i use it, it’s for a more extended writing session.

It’s a fact of life when carrying pens in my briefcase or computer bag, the jostling results in extra ink loose inside the cap. While hardly unique to the Hermes, the Hermes seemed to result in more ink inside the cap than usual. Because the pen is a dry writer, this surprised me.

Inks Used

The inaugural ink for this pen was KWZ Green #2. It was a little dry, even for my taste. Both the pen and the ink were new to me, so I attributed the dryness to manufacturing residue. I filled the pen at the pen show and didn’t clean it first.

After giving the pen a good cleaning, I picked a familiar ink, Montblanc Irish Green for its next fill. It was fine until I let the pen sit for a week, then I had to resort to some water to get the ink flowing again.

Next up was another new to me ink, KWZ IG Green #2, the iron gall version of the first ink. This one performed well, probably helped by the fact that the pen was used nearly every day. Although I did need to prime the feed a couple of times, I never had to find some water.

Waterman Red was used next, breaking the string of greens. After 3 or 4 days the Waterman Red turned a darker red, more like Diamine Ancient Copper. The ink was fine, just darker. I did need to prime the feed if the pen was stored nib up for a few days.

It was time for my favorite ink, so next up was R&K Blau-Schwartz LE. As expected it performed well. No hard starts or skipping.

P.W. Akkerman #28 Hofkwartier Groen was the worst ink in this pen. Nib creep was an issue, and a lot of ink found its way into the cap. The ink & pen performed well, with manageable nib creep, until near the end. Then it became messy with ink working its way to the section. It was also tedious to clean out of the pen. This is the one ink that will never return to this pen.

To recover from the Groen ink, I picked Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku, a well behaved green ink. This ink performed well and returned to the pen in a few months. Although, I admit its return was more because I forgot it had been in the pen and didn’t check the ink history first.

I used Omas Green between the two Shin-Ryoku fills. The ink performed well except for when the pen sat unused for over a week (maybe closer to two). Again, water was needed to get the ink flowing. Unfortunately, while trying to wet the nib I was clumsy and got the cap slightly wet and dirty, so I decided to clean, flush, and completely dry the pen.

The last ink and the one used to write the draft of this review was Sheaffer Emerald Green, from back in the days of the yellow boxes and inkwell bottle. It’s performed well so far.

Conclusion

In reviewing my older blog posts about this pen, I see I may have been a bit harsh. When I really like a pen (or anything), I have higher expectations, and the negatives stand out to me more. What I didn’t mention enough is how much I enjoy using the Fisher of Pens Hermes, and it brings a smile to my face when I use it.

The Fisher of Pens Hermes has been a finicky pen. It just doesn’t like being ignored. I’ve no doubt that a little tweaking could increase the ink flow, but I’m thrilled with its current performance. I’ve found I like my pens to be drier than what most people prefer. I’m glad I didn’t fix the pen. It’s broken-in quit nicely.

Saying Goodbye: Visconti Brunelleschi

Visconti Brunelleschi Limited Edition box top view

I recently sold odd my Visconti Brunelleschi LE fountain pen. This seems like a good time for a review and let you know why I sold it.

I bought the Brunelleschi back in March 2018 when it was originally released. I was enamored with Terra Cotta at the time, purchasing several Terra Cotta inspired inks.

While it make sound strange for a pen that I’m selling, there’s nothing I don’t like about this pen.

So why sell? The pen doesn’t call out to me. It’s only been filled five times (with four inks) and I didn’t missed it when it wasn’t inked up. It didn’t fill a unique niche in my accumulation. I’ve grown to enjoy medium nibs more over time, but it isn’t my only nice medium nib, although it is one of my top medium nibs. My Montblanc LeGrand and Sailor KOP both call out to me and I miss them when they aren’t inked. My Visconti Homo Sapien is the same size and the extra fine nib is more versatile for me. Plus, the Homo Sapien is another pen I miss when it isn’t inked.

Because the Brunelleschi is such a nice pen I felt guilty not using it enough. It deserves a better home. Finally, one reason to sell sooner rather than later is that I still have all the packaging and accessories. My track record for keeping these isn’t good.

Some observations about the Visconti Brunelleschi:

  • The pen is comfortable in my hand and I can use it for extended writing sessions without fatigue.
  • Visconti has a reputation for bad quality control with their nibs. This nib was great out of the box, as was my Homo Sapien.
  • The pen has a nice, consistent flow.

I used four different inks in the pen, all performed well.

  • Visconti Brown (Sepia) that came with the pen. I never did find out the specific name for this ink and it’s a assumption.
  • Callifolio Aurora – This was a little tedious to clean from the pen. Not exactly hard, just took a long time. Desire the extra cleaning time, I used this ink twice.
  • Montblanc Encre du Desert (Brown)
  • Diamine Terracotta

The Visconti Brunelleschi had everything going for it, it just didn’t click with me. It has a lot of good competiion among my accumulation so I decided to sell it off.

Long Term Review: Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen

Sailor Pro Gear KOP (M) with Montblanc Lucky Orange bottle

The Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen in basic black with rhodium trim, and a medium nib was a 2016 Washington D.C. Pen SHow Purchase. It’s been filled with fourteen different nibs since then.

I wrote about my first impressions in my “This Just In” post on August 11, 2016. I’ll recap some of that post here where it makes sense. You can revisit that post to see my very first impressions. This review covers the two and a half years since then.

A case can certainly be made that this pen is overpriced (~$740 now, only $20 less when I got it.) It’s a basic black pen with rhodium trim. It’s certainly well made, but it’s a resin (plastic) pen. It does have a 21kt gold nib. Many less expensive pens share those specifications, at least on paper. If I hadn’t been able to test it and talk to others about it at a pen show, I wouldn’t have purchased it. But I did purchase it. I have no regrets.

Sometimes I feel compelled to use a pen in order to get my money’s worth, especially at this price point. I want to use the Sailor King of Pen Pro Gear.

At the time I purchased this KOP I was very much a thin nib guy, the thinner, the better. This nib made me more open to medium nibs. I’m grateful that I resisted the urge to have it ground down while I was at the pen show.

While not ideal for all my pen needs it has become one of my favorite pens. This is attested to by the fact that I’ve used fourteen different inks with it in a little over 30 months. This is a lot for me. This is easily the most of any pen during this time. All fourteen inks were written dry, and a couple received refills of the same ink. While I’m not getting any new inks these days, it’s been my first choice for trying new inks since I got the pen.

It’s a pen I use when I plan to sit down and do some writing at a desk or table for an extended period. Extended can be as little as 10 minutes (but typically much longer). It’s not a pen I use for intermittent note-taking or as a pocket pen.

Inks Used

In general, the nib is a nice, slightly wet writer that does a good job of showing off the variations in an ink’s color. The following inks have been used in this Sailor King of Pen. I’ve included any notes I made at the time I used the ink.

  • KWZ Gummiberry – The first ink I used in this pen. It helped sell me on the pen and nib since it showed off the purple color so well.
  • Bookbinders Ground Rattler
  • P.W. Akkerman Hofwartier Groen #28
  • Robert Oster Signature Orange
  • Bookbinders Everglades Ratsnake (orange)
  • Montblanc Lucky Orange – The ink performed well in this pen. Although the feed shows signs of ink drying out, I didn’t encounter any skipping or hard starts.
  • Bookbinders Red-Belly Black – This ink was very *clingy* to both the nib and the feed.
  • Callifolio Aurora – nice line variation with this nib & ink,
  • Callifolio Teodora
  • Montblanc The Beatles Psychedelic Purple – This ink has become a favorite and this pen allows the ink to shine.
  • Athena Sepia
  • Papier Plum Burgundy
  • Sailor Sei-Boku Pigmented Blue-Black cartridge
  • P.W. Akkerman Steenrood von Vermeer

Summary

I haven’t updated my favorite five modern fountain pens since buying the Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen, but based on usage, it has a claim to replace any pen on the list, other than the Homo Sapien.

Photos from the KOP’s past

Review: Esterbrook Estie

Esterbrook Estie - in box

The Esterbrook Estie is my latest fountain pen acquisition. This Estie, along with a couple of TWSBI Go fountain pens, are my only pen purchases of the year. So, expectations are high. I also go the optional $40 MV adapter which allows the use of vintage Esterbrook nibs with the pen. For me, the MV adapter was the sole reason to get the pen. This made it a fountain pen with a street price of nearly $200.

What I Got

Esterbrook Estie as delivered

I bought the regular size Esterbrook Estie with the tortoise acrylic, palladium trim, and a fine steel nib. The pen comes with a standard Schmidt converter already in the barrel. It takes standard international cartridges & converters. An oversized version of the pen is also available, but only with the ebony acrylic.

I also got the MV (modern to vintage) adapter, which is only available in black. Black does work with any of the acrylics, but it would have been nice to have matching adapters. At $40 the adapter seems a bit expensive, so offering a variety of colors would probably be cost prohibitive.

The MV adapter comes in a cloth pouch that includes a converter that fits the adapter. The included international converter is a tad too long to screw the barrel and section together. It also seemed a little loose, so I’d recommend only using the converter that came with the adapter, even if you have a shorter standard international converter.

First Impressions

Esterbrook Estie - capped

I like the classic torpedo shape of the Estie. This is probably a good time to mention that nothing about this pen reminds me of my vintage Esterbrooks. I could probably conjure a link, but I didn’t buy the pen because of nostalgia, so I’m not at all disappointed.

View on the internal rings, most noticeable just above the cap in the photo
View on the internal rings, most noticeable just above the cap in the photo

The acrylic has more translucence than I expected. This isn’t a good thing because the rings from drilling (or polishing) are visible inside the barrel. The solid lines around the barrel detract from the beautiful design of the acrylic. Once seen, they can’t be unseen. They’re slightly less visible once the converter is added and blocks some of the light. The other, less translucent, acrylics wouldn’t have this problem. Still, for a $200 pen, I would expect the polishing to be complete if the acrylic is translucent.

Overall, the pen made a good first impression. The incomplete polishing inside the barrel keeps it from being a great first impression.

Writing with the Estie

Esterbrook Estie w/modern JoWo nib and converter
Esterbrook Estie w/modern JoWo nib and converter

I decided to try the stock JoWo nib before moving on to Esterbrook nibs. I inked it up with Sheaffer red. The fine nib was a smooth writer. I left it stored nib up for over 24 hours, and it wrote immediately without any skipping. There wasn’t any skipping or hard starts from the time I inked it up to when I wrote it dry. Overall, the writing experience was delightful.

Estie with vintage nib, MV adapter and converter
Estie with vintage nib, MV adapter and converter

Then I switched to vintage Esterbrook nibs, using the MV adapter. My expectations were high, which probably amplified my disappointment., but it was a rough start. I picked the Esterbrook #8440 as my first nib. It fits in the adapter just fine, and I filled the converter through the nib. It failed to write, a total lack of ink flowing through the nib, even after spending over an hour nib down. The #8440 is a super fine cartography nib, so I switched to the #9550 extra fine nib. I again filled it through the nib, and there was a complete lack of ink flow. Both nibs worked fine and immediately wrote in a vintage Esterbrook J pen. Which annoyed me since I now had another pen to clean. I went up a couple nib sizes and installed a #9460 medium nib. It did take a little time, but eventually, the ink flow hit its stride after the pen spent a couple minutes nib down. If I pause and hold the pen nib up for even a few moments (~10 seconds) the line becomes very thin and requires some time nib down for the flow to return.

Esterbrook Estie with vintage Esterbrook Nib
Esterbrook Estie with vintage Esterbrook Nib

My uninformed guess is that the ink needs to collect between the converter and nib unit, and if it isn’t there the converter can’t get enough ink to in time. My Newton Eastman (which is customized for vintage Esterbrook nibs) is eyedropper filled and doesn’t have any flow problems (except so much flow that ink splatter inside the cap if the pen is jostled in a bag). There’s metal inside the Estie’s barrel, so eyedropper filling isn’t an option.

The Estie has a “pressure fit” cap which should prevent ink evaporation. The cap takes a little over one complete rotation to cap or uncap. The “pressure fit” aspect is noticeable when uncapping and uncapping. I haven’t used the pen long enough to judge this, but it sure seems like a tight seal. That said, I was a little annoyed by the cap, and it takes some getting used to. I often hold and fidget with, the cap in my left hand as I write and will, almost absent-mindlessly, cap the pen when I pause. I found this jarring when I did it with this cap. I did eventually become more used to it, but I still notice it, and it interrupts my thoughts. I will probably get used to it.

The clip easily slips over my shirt pocket material.

Summary.

As a modern fountain pen, ignoring the MV adapter, this pen has a lot of competition at its $150 price point ($185 MSRP). If the pen appeals to you, then it would be worth getting. There’s nothing that stands out as superior about this pen. It’s a nice fountain pen, comfortable in my hand, and a good writer. I’d recommend a finish other than the tortoise acrylic unless you can inspect the quality of the interior polishing before purchasing.

Overall, I’m happy with my purchase, It will allow me to use my vintage Esterbrook nibs in a pen that’s comfortable to use.